Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Chaipter 2

By owerwhelmin public demand (thanks Chris, Stephen, Margaret an William), here's Chaipter 2. Doonload fae the 'File' menu as afore. Howp yese enjoy it.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Whit for daes adults read bairns’ fiction?

I saw a newspaper airticle the ither day that raised an interestin question: whit wey daes adults like readin bairns’ fiction? I felt that it didna really win tae an answer, an it’s been botherin me. Nae doot the airticle’s a gey ower-simplified accoont o Louise Joy’s thinkin, bit the tak-hame answer for the journalist wis that “such books represent a ‘symbolic retreat from the disappointment of reality’”, an there wis mention o some of the hamely attractions o the warld o The Wind in the Willows, amangst ithers.

Ah wad hae been leukin in a deiferent place masel. A lot o modren fiction for adults is gey repellent, sae Ah’m no surprised gin some fowk is repelled. There a norie aboot that proper fiction for grown-up fowk haes tae be edgy and push agin the boondaries. An as the boondaries has gien wey, bit the pushin haes aye continued, we’ve gotten ontae some gey roch grun. It seems naitral tae readers noo tae be invitit tae spen thair leesure oors inside the heid o a psychopath, or lattin a braken, self-obsessed character greet aa ower the reader’s shoother.

Ah cannae think whaur, but Ah’m shair Ah’ve read an interview wi Alexander McCall Smith whaur he was bein made tae defen hissel for bein sae oot o touch wi the Zeitgeist – because he daured screive aboot daicent, weill-faured fowk gaun aboot thair ilka day lifes in a douce, neebourlike wey. An it’s no as gin he avoids the daurk side o life - in his ‘No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency' novels there’s AIDS, an there’s the stealin o bairns tae be killt or mutilatit for tradeetional medicine (muti). Bit the pynt o view is that o the fowk warslin agin sic things; there nae rowin in the glaur for the thrawart satisfaction o’t.

Maybes it’s a sign o a ceevilisation in decline – the circenses o ancient Rome. Maybes it’s a thrawn rebellion agin the feminisation o modren life, the enforced ‘niceness’, the saft totalitarianism that will fling ye in the jyle for insultin (selectit) neebours, bit ignore a neebourhood campaign o terror be teenage gangs. The time is oot o jynt, an gin the prevailin tid is anger, maybes anger fins it sootherin tae imagine tortures an nightmares.

Bit spickin for masel, Ah’m no surprised gin mony fowk wad raither spen thair time wi fictive characters that are maybes imperfeck human beins, bit are daein thair best tae uphaud thair humanity agin aa adversity. Ah suspeck that’s the attraction o bairns’ fiction whan ye get richt doon til’t – basic human daicency.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Invitation - Preview o Chaipter 1

Ye're waarmly invitit tae doonload a preview o the novel - Chaipter 1 Lost on the wrang side o the Border. (Gang tae the 'File' menu on the tap left o the Google Docs page.)

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Cover comin alang.

Thon's the artwork for the cover digitised. (Copyright Shona Grant.) Nearly ready tae roll.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Playin tae the strinths o the leid

Ah was interestit tae read Bruce Eunson’s thochts on yaisin Inglis alangside Shetlandic in his translation o a Chekhov story (the story itsel is comin oot in pairts on his blog, an a braw piece it is). He whammles the tradeetion o yaisin Inglis for narration an Scots for dialogue, pyntin oot that: “In modern day Shetland the majority of people speak a mixture of dialect and English, switching between the two over and over again throughout the day. A proper illustration of this is yet to be portrayed by a Shetland dialect writer.” 

Sae his narration is in Shetlandic, bit the characters spicks maistly Inglis, faain intae Shetlandic whiles. Ye get yaised wi the switchin, an it seems naitral eneuch. Some o the switches glegly merks a subtle chynge, e.g. in attention (awa fae the lassie an towart her dug), or in her view o hersel:
“… I don’t know myself what I am doing,” shö said, “Shetland fokk spaek aboot gittin tangled up wi an evil spirit. …”
Bruce says tae, in his spick on owersettin Rimbaud, that he enjoys the saur o a challenge that “pushes dialect down a road it hasn’t been down before, but certainly has the capacity for”.

His thochts, an whit he’s duin wi the twa leids in his owersettin o the Chekhov, certes rung a bell wi me, because Ah’ve duin somethin the likes o that in ma ain suin-tae-kythe novel, Braken Fences.

Be the time o the novel, China an India cairries the wecht o ceevilisation at least as muckle as the Anglosphere. The ongauns taks place in Central Asia, wi a clanjamfrie o characters wi wull deiferent backgruns, spickin deiferent leids. The narrative is in Scots, bit whan fowk is spickin Inglis (or Hindi) Ah gie thair wirds in Inglis. Thir fowk comes fae urban backgruns an haes a modren sensibeelity – they’re yaised wi objecks an ideas that wisna yit inventit or named whan Scots wis a fu-haundit leid boun for aa purposes. Thair wirds wad come oot wersh or thrapplet in Scots.

Bit yince the main characters is plankit doon ahint a Parteetiont Border on the wrang side o modernity, they faa amang fowk that leeves simpler lives, maistly concernt wi meetin thair immediate needcessities, in a mair haun-made warld, wi a short supply line fae the fiel or the hunt tae the buird. Thon is a settin that Scots can cantily express. Ah’m ettlin tae publish the beuk in Inglis as weill, bit Ah div think the Scots wirks better – because Ah’ve got that contrast atween the hi-tech, bureaucratic, corporate warld o Inglis an the haurder, tyaavin, organic warld o Scots. Sin that’s the emotional hert o the story, the narrative gings wi Scots an aa.

Forbye there are Neanderthals, an Ah’ve got the maist byordinar cheek – Ah’ve made thaim spick a kin o Shetlandic.

Thursday, 15 September 2011


As somebody sayed earlier this year, “The right has won the economic battle, the left has won the cultural battle and the centre has won the political battle.” An the left (Marxism, existentialism) rejecks the norie of identity cleekit tae place. The indwaller o twinty generations’ staunin haes nae mair claim on the hainit walth o a place nor the new-come ferrylouper, an nae mair richt tae decide whit bude tae be hained an haundit doon in the future. The left sees national, regional an ethnic tradeetions as reactionary. It haes an insteenctive mislippenin o sicna ongauns whan it funs thaim hingin on in wastern society (though it cuiters e’en the maist barbaric aspecks o fremit cultures, bit lat that flee stick tae the waa).

Sicna wey o thinkin pits local dialecks an e’en a national leid lik Scots in the caufie’s stall. A EU report twa-three year syne concludit that there wis nae guid reason for the dwinin o leids sic as Breton an Sardinian – naither in-migration nor inter-mairriage:
the decline derives from a rejection of the language associated with a negative identity that links with the relegation of the language and the language group into a world which is conceived of as ‘traditional’(‘Euromosaic: The production and reproduction of the minority language groups in the European Union’, ISBN 92-827-5512-6).
Modernity haes a horror o bein auld-farrant, mired in the glaur, afflicktit wi nostalgie de la boue. Economically tae – aathing that is free or hame-made, aareadies staunin an no needin for to be dung doon an biggit up again, is nae wey profitable.

There a German wird Heimat, meanin ‘hame, yer native place’, wi un-set-owerable connotations o the kintraside, village life, bairntime an community. The norie is fylit for us acause it was haused be the Nazis (Blut und Boden, bluid an muild). Nanetheless the romantic norie o Heimat spicks tae a profund feeling o the human hert – the tendency tae grund emotions an powerfu memories in a place. Paul Devereux screives, in The Sacred Place:
place becomes an agent that provokes our sensibilities, that can stir the seeds of spirituality within us. … Despite its widespread occurrence, it is a sense for which there is little cultural currency in our modern world … and such experiences tend to remain private (p.20).
Or as a poet pits it:
An is this chaumer really a chaumer, or a bosie,
An fit is aneth the windae: a street or years?
(Sheena Blackhall, ‘An Owresett in Scots o a poem by Ivan V Lalie, frae an Inglis translation by Charles Simic: Places We Love’, The Barley Queen)

We spick aboot ‘ruits’ acause oor childhood memories is that strangly yokit tae places, the places whaur we first entert intae consciousness o wirsels. The soon o local vyces is pairt o the sense o place. Nae wunner that Scots is that evocative for fowk that grew up wi’t.

The faimily’s sleepin sae Ah winna gang rakin amo ma beuks. Ah tak doon whit comes nearest tae haun tae mak ma pynt better nor Ah can screive, an shair eneuch fun this:
Ower the slow blak watter o the sheugh, an awa
Ower the sookin fog an gruppin ling,
The boag streetchin oot aheid, far
An far
(from James Fenton, ‘Dinnis’, On Slaimish)
an this:
Ma kin around me, leevin yet, or ghaists,
ma mither’s roses, yella, rid an cream;
a thousand simmer waddins in their scent.
(Rab Wilson, ‘A Sonnet Oan Ma Birthday’, A Map for the Blind)
Bairntime, cauf grun, hame, poetry, dialeck – thon’s Heimat.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Style tips for screivin in Scots: avoidin latinity

Aabody that ettles tae screive in Scots kens foo important it is tae wyle disteinctive Scots wirds (an no juist wird forms that haes near Inglis cognates). Naebody wints tae draw doon Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s creiticism o a Scots that is nocht but a “spray o apostrophes” (an leain oot the actual apostrophes daesnae mak nae differ).

Here are twa-three thochts on avoidin the peat hag o Latinate wirds shared wi Inglis.

We canna expeck tae redd mair nor a proportion o latinate wirds fae oor texts. Bit unless we’re thirled tae technical terminology be the natur o the subjeck in haun, we can aften fin an alternative, mair hamelt, wirdin. There micht no be yae single hamely wird tae replace a latinate yin – that’s whit wey the latinate wirds wis borraed in the first place – bit gaun back a step in the writin process tae the pynt whaur we’re ettlin tae turn conceps intae wirdins, we whiles fin that, if there nae single hamely wird, there micht juist the same be an eidiomatic, proverbial or metaphorical wey o expressin the idea.

Whitever oor lealty tae Scots, intelligibeility cannae be aathegither pit tae the horn. Vocabular that’s like tae be deificult for the reader bude tae be introduced intae transparent contexts. In ither wirds, the surroondin text sud mak the deificult wird guessable. Gin it’s drappit in for its ain sake an no made clear, for the reader’s sake naethin that follaes had better depend on kennin whit it meant. Yin wey o winnin the necessar transparency is tae gie the problem wird a marra as yin o a pair o synonyms (a favourite ploy o Sir Walter Scott), the ither bein a mair fameiliar – e’en an Inglis – wird. Similes are anither wey o slippin in Scots wirds, e.g. there mony variations on “no worth a X”, whaur it haurdly maitters whether X is a weill-kent wird lik docken or an obsolete yin lik doit.

The tradeitional walth o the leid offers  mony weys tae embellish Scots writin, sae that it can be heezit abuin the everyday athoot needin tae be latinate. Hale blauds o the vocabular haes been owercome be chynges in oor wey o life, an the wirds are kistit in the dictionars, bit they keep on desertin the kirkyaird. Whiles they bide on in eidioms an feigurative senses that can aye be drawn on. Fowk aften haes a passive knawledge o vocabular weill ayont their ain usage – fae the likes o bairn-rhymes an sangs, includin, o coorse, the muckle sangs an the wark o Burns. Likewise dounricht allusion an quotation can be yaised. Thon alloos moribund wirds tae be brocht intae the text alang wi a bittie helpfu context.

Scots wirds maitter: they gie us disteinctive weys o peenin doon oor thochts. The affcome micht be profun, or it micht juist saut the text i a wey at maks it mair tuithsome tae the reader, bit as Hugh MacDiarmid famously pit it, Scots offers “a vast unutilised mass of lapsed observation made by minds whose attitude to experience and whose speculative and imaginative tendencies were quite different from any possible to ... anglicised Scots today.”

Style tips for scrievin in Scots: checklist for Search an Replace

This links tae a workbook wi ma personal checklist for translatin fae Inglis intae Scots yaisin 'Search an Replace' tae get the usual stuff oot the wey. Ye're walcome tae yaise it (at yer ain risk!). The text in the boxes haes got kinna sned aff - click in the box tae read the text in the formula bar across the tap.

Ye can download a copy in Excel format here, an o coorse ye can chynge it aboot tae suit yer ain preferences.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Style tips for scrievin in Scots: translatin fae Inglis yaisin ‘Search an replace’

Gin we’re honest, mony o’s likely funs it easier whiles tae marshall wir thochts an get thaim doon on paper in Inglis, than translate thaim intae Scots efter. Ah confess Ah dae, whan the subjeck is yin that streetches the leid. Easier tae concentrate on clauchtin haud o the sense, an get that sortit, an than Ah can think on sayin whit Ah wintit tae say in guid Scots. Ah’ll come back anither time tae the question o guid Scots. In this note, Ah’m gaun tae knap aboot a cheat that’ll turn yer Inglis intae gey wersh Scots, juist as a first go aff.

Ah’ll assume ye’re yaisin Word for Windows. Gin ye’re a Mac yaiser ye’re probably cleverer nor me onywey – wirk it oot for yersel.

Sae lat’s say ye hae a blaud in Inglis that ye’re wintin tae caa ower intae Scots, for whitever reason. Ye’re no gaunnae warstle through thon chyngin ilka ‘gh’ intae a ‘ch’, are ye? Naw, ye’re gaunnae yaise ‘Search an replace’. 

Bit div ye daur tae hit ‘Replace all’? Weill, gin ye’re canny, ye micht e’en be able for tae dae that whiles. Juist be shair yer item is unique in yer blaud – for instance, ye micht yaise ‘Replace all’ tae chynge ‘I’ tae ‘Ah’ (makin shair tae tick ‘Find whole words only’), bit gin ye’ve got ‘I’ as a Roman numeral (likes o ‘Warld War I’) ye’ll pu that in an aw.

Think inpits an ootpits – certain chynges haes tae be taen in order, sae that ye dinna, for example, mak three hunner new ‘oo’ wirds juist afore ye wis gaun tae chynge aa yer ‘oo’ wirds tae ‘ui’. An try no tae get intae the seetuation whaur ye hae tae track doon monsters o yer ain creation, e.g. gin ye chynge aa yer 'most' strings tae 'maist', ye'll mebbies create 'almaist'. Better tae chynge 'almost' tae 'aamaist' as a first step.

Mind oot for homographs likes o ‘tae’ (to) an ‘tae’ (toe). Gin ye hae tae gae back a wee for ony reason, ye can ‘Un-do’ (ctrl+Z), bit a hantle muves furder on, an ye loss that option. Gin ye ettle than tae flit ilka ‘tae’ back tae ‘to’ ye’ll get yer taes catched in yer ain trap. Ah tend tae save the document gey aften, than Ah can backtrack, if necessar, be re-openin it.

Spickin for masel, Ah haenae gotten muckle advantage fae the ‘Match case’ option. Gin ye’ve a place-name, say ‘Black Law’, an ye wint tae lea that ‘Black’ at the same time ye’re chyngin ither ‘black’ tae ‘bleck’, ye can yaise it for that. But mind if ‘black’ kythes at the stert o a sentence, ye’ll miss it (cos o the capital letter).

Wildcairds. Ah, wildcairds. They dinnae eywis dae whit ye think they’ll dae. Or at ony rate, they dinnae eywis dae whit Ah think they’ll dae. Ah cannae spick for Mac yaisers. Ah tend tae juist keep it simple:

• an asterisk * stauns for ony string o characters, sae ye can fun wirds regairdless o their endin;

ye can specify the en o wirds, e.g. (ing)> means ‘ing’ juist at the en of wirds; likewise (ed)> is ‘ed’ at the en o wirds, etc.

Gin ye’re searchin yaisin wildcairds, there a box tae tick (‘Use wildcards’) in the dialogue box. Dinnae copy the wildcairds intae the replacement text – they’ll prent!

Whiles it’s needfu tae mak exceptions tae a chynge, e.g. ye micht wint tae chynge ‘ing’ at the en of wirds tae ‘in’ except for the wird ‘thing’. There a wildcaird meanin ‘not’ but it disnae interack yuisfully wi ‘replace’. Ah fun the easiest wey is tae temporarily pit bye the exception. For instance, ye could chynge the hale word ‘thing’ tae ‘thinw’ or some ither byordnar string, mak yer ‘ing’ chynge, than chynge aw ‘thinw’ back tae ‘thing’.

Ye micht wint tae keep yer spellin technology-freinly. In parteecular, ye can replace ‘oo’ (e.g. ‘moon’) wi ‘ui’ but no wi ‘u’ + consonant + ‘e’.


• eywis save the file afore hittin ‘Replace all’, than ye can ay gang back an stert again fae a kent pynt;

be awaur o chynges that haes tae be duin in a certain order;

• mak a list o the chynges ye’re gaun tae mak i the order ye’re gaun tae mak them (or halp yersel tae mines, ye’re walcome, Ah’ll pit it up in ma neist post), an tick them aff;

• afore ilk chynge, hing on an check whether ye’re wintin ‘Find whole words only’;

• afore hittin ‘Replace all’ be shair yer item is unique in yer blaud.